It’s 8 a.m. on a game-day Saturday morning and the booming bass from the Amon G. Carter Stadium shakes the house before the alarm has the chance to sound. The stadium is just down the street.
Laurie and Steve Sager walk out onto their front step with a fresh cup of coffee and watch as the sea of purple slowly builds and then floods the street.
Among the crowd of TCU students, there are neighbors leaving their homes to join the purple flood. Parents herd children outfitted in TCU apparel.
Ever since TCU joined the Big 12 and Horned Frog football became more popular, that “fans aren’t just dedicated alumni” but now come from throughout the area, said Christopher East, a tailgater.
People wave and offer a warm greeting as they pass the house and make their way past the baseball stadium, said Laurie Sager.
“We have always cheered for TCU,” Sager said. “We love it and now we live in the perfect spot for it.”
The Sagers, season ticket holders for football, baseball, and soccer, moved from outside of Aledo to be closer to TCU three years ago.
“When we were younger, we used to travel an hour or so to go watch the SMU or Baylor games—when we lived in New York for a few years we used to fly back for games too,” Sager said. “That was when the tailgating crowd was a lot smaller and controlled.”
These days the “perfect spot” to live for TCU tailgating has its consequences.
On game days the Sager’s street is crowded and cars block their driveway.
“Last season, someone knocked Steve’s side-view mirror off of his truck,” Sager said.
“It’s all part of the TCU atmosphere,” Steve Sager said. “We knew what we were getting into when we moved here.”
As the day goes and fans flock to the stadium, they leave broken glass bottles, crushed beer cans and other garbage in their wake. Shouts of fans get louder while music blasts.
“The atmosphere turns from family friendly to an adult party as the day goes on,” East said. “Win or lose, empty beer cans and red Solo cups litter the street and the lawns of houses around TCU.”
“I picked up a couple empty beer cans off of our lawn Sunday morning—I always do,” Laurie Sager said.
“It’s a Sunday morning tradition,” Sager’s husband said.
The problem in their lawn and driveway is not theirs alone.
During game weekends, the lawns along Berry Street from the baseball and intramural fields are usually littered with trash from the game while neighborhood residents struggle to find parking.
TCU Joins Big 12
Ever since joining the Big 12 on July 1, 2012, TCU enrollment between graduates and undergraduates grew from 9,518 in 2011 to a total of 10,394 in fall 2016, said Associate Director of Strategic Communications Management Holy Ellman.
“And we are only expecting the enrollment to increase in the future,” Ellman said.
Alongside the enrollment growth, the attendance of TCU football games has significantly increased as well, said the TCU Associate Athletics Director for Communications Mark Cohen.
“Nine of the top ten attendances in TCU football history have occurred in the last five seasons since the Horned Frogs began Big 12 play,” Cohen said. “TCU has sold out of football season tickets four times in the last five years and has set a school record for season ticket sales in five of the last seven seasons.”
TCU is now ranked third nationally among Power 5 schools last season in percent of attendance capacity at 103.9 percent, Cohen said. This season, TCU has had three sellouts in the last four home games and 27 sellouts in the last 37 home games.
TCU Tailgaters and 109 Residents
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Kathy Cavins-Tull said TCU wants their students and tailgaters to be respectful to the surrounding neighborhoods.
“When it comes to dealing with neighborhoods in the area, we receive a lot of complaints—which we see as parental issue for us,” Cavins-Tull said.
Complaints range from parking to trash, noise, vandalism and so on.
“We can help students understand what the ordinances are, what the laws are and how to live under these rules while also a TCU student,” Cavins-Tull said. “But we cannot control what our tailgaters do.”
Cavins-Tull said the school wants the students to take basic care of the environment.
“We want students to understand city ordinances which include putting your trash bins away. But neighbors are responsible for their own property when it comes to trash,” Cavins-Tull said. “The garbage and stuff in the street are the city’s problem, I suppose.”
She said the school talks to the students if the neighbors say they are out of control.
“A lot of parties—not just tailgating—get out of hand and parking comes with that,” Cavins-Tull said. “But when a Fort Worth resident complains, it is difficult for us to find out who is causing the problem,”
When TCU finds the responsible students, the school calls them in to explain the rules and laws, Cavins-Tull said.
“If the students don’t comply, they will either get cited or arrested,” Cavins-Tull said. “It’s unfortunate, but if they are hosting a party with a lot of underage drinkers, then it is out of our control.”
When dealing with parking in the area, TCU advises neighborhood residents to use the city council, Cavins-Tull said.
“Fort Worth residents can use city council to get their street to be a ‘resident only’ parking area,” Cavins-Tull said. “But it’s frustrating because when these same residents want to host a party, they can’t use their own street.”
Cavins-Tull said it is difficult finding a resolution to the complaints overall.
“When some of these people bought their homes, TCU didn’t play big games on Saturday’s, so no one knows how to solve these problems,” she said.
Neighborhoods in TCU Area
Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association President Jace Thompson said he has enjoyed watching the TCU and local community support grow after the school joined the Big 12.
“What used to be small tailgates has grown to be purple tents all over and it’s a lot of fun—for the most part,” Thompson said. “It always feels like it is nine months of insanity when students are here and then three months of living in a ghost town.”
Thompson said people live in the area not only for TCU but for the convenience of being so close to downtown Fort Worth, Magnolia Street and other populated areas where people work.
But, game days can be a downside to living near the university.
“There will be a student that will park in front of your driveway and block you in on game days—if you can get around it, you do but sometimes there is just no way,” Thompson said. “Cops have come to mess with the parking violations which is frustrating because they should be protecting us instead. But as a neighborhood, we usually try not to get the police involved.”
Another issue after tailgating is the amount of trash that piles up, Thompson said.
“After football games, I always see red Solo cups and other trash at the end of Wabash Street, but usually it disappears on Sunday morning,” Thompson said. “We got lucky because fraternity guys usually have pledges that clean it up, which I know is pretty abnormal for surrounding neighborhoods.”
Thompson, an active leader in the Young Life community at TCU, said he is more tolerant than some people because of his relationship with the student body.
“We do have residents in our neighborhood that regularly call the cops,” he said. “Whether it’s vandalism, loud music or parking problems, there are those that cannot stand the TCU crowd.”
Why do people stay?
Thompson said that the Bluebonnet Hills neighborhood, as well as other neighborhoods around TCU, are premiere neighborhoods in Fort Worth which is why people stay.
“A lot of people stay around here because of the value of houses and how when you buy a house in the TCU area, it is an investment that will never go backward in value,” he said. “Houses in the Fort Worth area, in general, have risen in market value.”
According to the Tarrant Appraisal District, in 2005 the average market value for Fort Worth home was $102,648. In 2010, the average market value was $118,137 and this year that average increased again to $159,603.
“Families also stay in this area because of the good schools such as Tanglewood and Paschal,” Thompson said. “Other people stay in this area because they have lived here for a long time and they never knew TCU was going to get so big.”
Thompson said he hopes that when the construction in the TCU Greek is finished it will alleviate the parking problems in the surrounding areas.
“People have been signing a petition for parking passes in Bluebonnet Hills so that students cannot block people in that have places to be,” Thompson said.
The Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association is trying to have their neighborhood members meet the students living in the area.
“I think the solution to the parking, littering, and loud music problem is having the students get to know people in our community,” Thompson said. “We don’t want the first time the residents meet the students to be when they are frustrated with them.”
Neighbor to Neighbor: TCU Edition
TCU has decided to partner with the City of Fort Worth and its Neighbor to Neighbor partnership program to inform off-campus students of their rights as a Fort Worth resident and to educate students on how to build good relationships with community members, Cavins-Tull said.
The university emailed off-campus students the brochure this week.
The brochure says it “Serves as a resource to help students understand the responsibilities of being respectful, considerate neighbors and community members.”
The Neighbor to Neighbor: TCU Edition was released because of the increased amount of complaints that the city has received over the past few years, said Cavins-Tull.
“As the TCU student population has grown, the number of complaints from off-campus students’ neighbors has increased as well,” Cavins-Tull said.
Cavins-Tull said TCU sees problems between off-campus students and Fort Worth neighborhoods as a parental issue for the school.
“We want our students to be seen as respectable neighbors and overall good people within the community,” Cavins-Tull said.
The brochure informs students that the City of Fort Worth has set maximum sound levels for all residential properties in the city.
Between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. the maximum is set at 70 decibels. According to scientists at Purdue University, 70 decibels is equivalent to the sound of a running vacuum cleaner.
During the nighttime, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., the maximum is 60 decibels. Purdue says 60 decibels is equivalent to a normal conversation in restaurant, office, background music, or an air conditioning unit that is 100 feet away.
City Councilmember District 9 of Fort Worth, Ann Zadeh, said noise complaints are common in an urban environment so the city hears complaints quite often.
“Hopefully most of the time they handled by reaching out to the offending party and asking for them to be considerate,” Zadeh said. “But sometimes code enforcement or police are called and at times concerned parties reach out directly to their representative for assistance.”
Zadeh said there are no new ordinances being considered.
“However, my staff is currently looking at possible tweaks to the nuisance ordinance to allow quicker response on problem properties,” Zadeh said. “Regarding parking, staff is reviewing and considering possible residential permit parking standards that could be utilized in areas where parking pressures impact neighborhoods adversely.”
Although Zadeh does not have a specific list of complaints, the city’s website does offer a function called One Address.
“You can look up specific addresses and see code violations etc. within a specific radius of that address,” Zadeh said.
The website provides permit, crime, code violation and other city data.
TCU DEALS WITH THE ISSUE
Cavins-Tull said when TCU receives a complaint about an off-campus student, the university calls in the student to talk about the complaint.
“It’s difficult to find out who is causing the problems that the resident complained about,” Cavins-Tull said. “Most of the time it is a general complaint with a guess as to who it might be so there is nothing we can really do about it.”
Cavins-Tull said when the school does find the responsible students, they are asked to come in for a meeting with Russel.
“Students can get cited or arrested if they don’t change their behavior,” Cavins-Tull said. “Sometimes there is just nothing we can do to stop it.”
NEIGHBORHOODS DEAL WITH ISSUE
The brochure instructs TCU students about “Neighborly Relationship Advice.”
The brochure advises students to attend neighborhood association meetings, participate in neighborhood association-sponsored events, and meet and talk with their neighbors regularly.
Some neighborhoods have tried to set up programs and events where TCU students can meet their neighbors.
Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association President Jace Thompson said he believes there would be fewer problems if students knew their neighbors.
“I just think it would be better if our TCU students met their neighbors at a fun event rather than at 2 a.m. due to a noise violation or something like that,” Thompson said. “We tried setting up an ice cream social but only two of our neighborhood TCU residents showed up.”